The Newspaper Gospel (Only it is mostly bad news)
On our most recent road trip, I sat in a hotel lobby early in the morning, trying to do some reading in peace and quiet when these thoughts began to run through my mind. Sometimes I feel like a weirdo getting up early and reading an ancient book that I have read literally thousands of times before. Why do I bother trying to find quiet places, away from the blaring TV in the breakfast room of hotels, in order to steal some moments with the Bible? Is this book really that relevant for today? What do other people do in the mornings? What do “normal” people do? Just as soon as I thought it, I saw a business man who had also gotten up early to get to work, grab a newspaper and a coffee and head to the breakfast room where the 24/7 News channel had been on all morning. Ah, I had my answer! Other people read other gospels, only they are modern and not necessarily “good” news, but rather simply “news”. But as we all know to varying degrees, none of our news networks really give us news, they give us a narrative. What we understand to be news is carefully selected and arranged stories about our world. What is not reported in our news broadcasts is just as significant as what is reported every day. Each news network has its’ own bias and its’ own set of guiding convictions, principals and agendas. But this part is the key: Most people in the US make the consumption of the news broadcast and the newspaper a normal and somewhat indispensable part of their day. Without even knowing it, people in the US let the news networks, whether they lean to the right or to the left, set the agenda for their thought-life. But not only that, we also let the news networks tells us through their constant presence in our life, what is important and what is not important. They tell us when to worry and when to be happy, when to be angry and when to be sad. They tell us what is unjust and what is holy. In short they attempt to tell us how the world works and what our role in that world should be. The problem is, the news networks are businesses who make more money by holding your attention longer and the more they can keep you in angst, the more they can keep you watching and listening and reading their reports. Bad news sells. The bottom line is this: The gospels that most people in the US read, hear, watch and absorb every morning to give themselves context for their lives is literally a barrage of bad news. This is like being dehydrated and being hooked up to an IV filled with sugar water. It will never help and will only exacerbate the situation. THIS is why I avoid the television and reach for the Bible. The Bible gives us a narrative that truly makes sense of the world, without avoiding the ugly, nitty-gritty details of life. The Bible is honest, challenging, and full of hope. It’s not simply a book of rules and guiding principles for how to live but rather it is a narrative of God’s world, God’s people, and God’s purposes. It makes sense, it gives hope, and it is good news. Won’t you please trade in your bad news for good news? You won’t regret it.